Google’s Wing Drones To Begin Deliveries In Australia

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A Wing drone prototype is shown carrying a payload. Credit: Alphabet

Google claims launch of world’s first commercial drone delivery service in the land down under

Alphabet’s Wing division has claimed the launch of the world’s first commercial drone delivery service in Australia.

Wing said it will begin delivering takeaway food, coffee and medicines by drone to about 100 homes in Canberra, after that country’s aviation authority granted it regulatory approval for the move.

Last December Alphabet said would it begin testing its drone delivery service in Finland in 2019, the first time it has tested its drones in Europe.

Drone testing

Google had announced that it was developing its own fleet of airborne drones in 2014, in a scheme called ‘Project Wing’.

The idea was to develop a drone capable of home deliveries, similar to the way in which Amazon is looking to utilise drone technology.

Over the following years Project Wing was developed by engineers at Google X, the secret “moonshot” labs at the research giant.

But Google in July 2018 announced plans to spin off its two research projects, Wing and Loon, into separate companies.

That decision was taken because Alphabet felt the two projects were ready to become early-stage companies.

Project Wing has already undergone extensive tests in the Australian outback (at least 55,000 flights), and it has been delivering dog food for example to Australian farmers.

Essentially the drone boasts a single wing design that allows it to fly at faster aeroplane speeds compared to the more familiar helicopter-like drones. It also feature a retractable winch-like device that lowers the delivered goods to the ground.

Drone delivery

And now Wing has announced its drone deliveries have moved from the testing phase in the Aussie outback, and into metropolitan areas, with around 100 homes in the suburbs of Crace, Palmerston, and Franklin initially having access to the service.

In the next few months it will expand the drone delivery service to homes in Harrison and Gungahlin.

Wing said the drone delivery service work by partnering with local businesses including coffee shops and pharmacies to deliver their products “in minutes.”

“Whether you’re a parent with a sick child at home and have run out of baby paracetamol, a busy professional who forgot to pick up fresh bread during your regular weekly shop, or you simply just want to order your morning flat white without the hassle of having to drive to the cafe, Wing has teamed up with local Canberra businesses to give customers the opportunity to have a range of goods delivered in a handful of minutes,” said the firm.

Drone restrictions

And despite Wing’s drone delivery service being approved by the Australian regulator, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), there are some restrictions.

Wing’s drones are not allowed to fly over main roads, and are not permitted to fly close to crowds of people. Customers getting the drone delivery service will also have to receive a safety briefing about interacting with drones.

And Wing’s drones also have to obey a curfew, as they are only allowed to fly between 7am and 8pm on Monday to Friday.

On the weekends they cannot fly until after 8am.

It remains to be seen how local residents will react to the drones flying over their neighbourhoods.

“Wing strongly believes that by working together with local policymakers, regulators, and communities, we can improve access to services, open up new economic opportunities, and better connect our cities,” said the firm. “We look forward to continuing this dialogue with the Canberra community as we expand Wing’s service.”

Google’s Wing unit is not alone is trying to make drone deliveries a reality.

Amazon’s drone delivery service is yet to launch commercially, despite a number of high profile trial deliveries in the UK and the US.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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